Generating Discussion! Between Love and Money: Sex, Tourism, and Citizenship in Cuba and the Dominican Republic

Summary: In this article, Amalia Cabezas presents several problems with the common conceptions of sex work in the Dominican Republic and Cuba. She takes issue with the term ‘sex work’ being used to define any practice of sex for the exchange of money, as its expression is often more varied and complicated than a simple transactional relationship.
Cabezas points to increased tourism as a cause of increased sex work, and “flexible reorganization of the labor process through the creation of seasonal work, the proliferation of informal market arrangements, and the erosion of boundaries between the formal and informal sectors of the economy” in both the Dominican Republic and Cuba (though she notes that historical conditions of poverty are more consistent in the Dominican Republic, due in part to the lack of social services offered in comparison to Cuba). The increased prevalence of sex work in these areas has contributed to a diversification of the types of relationships between tourists and hosts. Cabezas points to the many instances where what is deemed “sex works” goes beyond sexual acts in exchange for cash.

Both countries have terms which illustrate the variety of jobs available to people who cater to tourists. Not all of these positions explicitly cater to sex; for example, sanky pankys in the Dominican Republic are young black men who serve as tour guides for white women, as well as female entertainers who lead men to recreational activities and sightseeing. In both of these cases, it is often found that both parties are looking for something more long-term than transactional sexual acts, and for the “entertainers,” the work provides the opportunity for advancement, travel, and romantic relationships.

However, Cabezas does note that an increased “officialization” of sex work and tourism through companies like hotels has resulted in prioritization of certain bodies (light-skinned, primarily) over others when catering to tourists. The last half of the article discusses the problems with the term ‘sex work’ in its unequal application; it really only applies to certain “types” of people/work, and that influences the way it has been policed, enforced, and the way only some people have been protected. She says, “desire and affection are defined as “lighter”and prostitution as “darker,” effectively racializing the entire process. This binary opposition presumes relations not tainted by economic dependence, speculation, motivation, and interest, which apparently take place between individuals of the same racial, national, and class background.” As a consequence of these attitudes, it is very common to find mass arrests and sexual abuse of dark-skinned women who are accused of being the “bad” type of sex worker. And while there have been rehabilitation centers who are supposed to be of assistance to the women being targeted as undesirable sex workers, they have often fallen back on ideas of these women as greedy and unclean, rather than addressing the structural inequality that the system is set up on. Cabezas point as far as reform is that we need prioritize women’s sexual rights, while acknowledging the prevalence of racism and classism that exists in sex work.

-What would be an effective way to address the broadness of sex work/tourism? Are more terms required to encompass the variety of relationships between the travelers and hosts in countries where these relationships are common?
-How do we differentiate between exploitative sex work and one that is mutually beneficial for the participants? And, following that, can those differentiations help us determine a better solution to the problem of exploitative sexual trade?
-What can be done to combat the underlying racism/classism when it comes to the lack of protection for some women and the prioritization of others?


Generating Discussion: “The Culture of Poverty, Crack Babies, and Welfare Cheats”

In “The Culture of Poverty, Crack Babies, and Welfare Cheats,” Ana Teresa Ortiz and Laura Briggs assess the foundation of today’s poverty population and the so called “culture of poverty.”

Their piece begins with the examination of the early 90’s Romanian adoption boom and how U.S. foster children were viewed as “damaged goods.” Instead of adopting children in need here, where they would have received subsidies and federal aid, many families hoping to adopt opted to spend thousands of dollars just to travel overseas.

Ortiz and Briggs believe this was caused by how needy or impoverished children are “viewed” in the U.S. Unlike other countries, America sees poor children as nothing more than products of their own “degenerate” parents, unable to succeed in the world, and will therefore be destined to face the same fate as those parents. However, as the authors point out, this way of thinking seems to be unique to Americans: Ironically, children “at risk” who live overseas are seen as both in need of rescue and characterologically untainted. These children are seen as victimized by a poverty that can be remedied through transformation of the state, modernization, education, technology, and science” (41). Ortiz and Briggs also quote Oscar Lewis’ view on the culture of poverty and how it is “passed down from generation to generation.”

Their section on “crack babies” was especially interesting for me to read. I, myself, have fallen victim to the widely accepted opinion on “crack babies” being “doomed for life,” having a proliferous amount of health problems and developmental difficulties. I had no idea that there was such a hidden backstory behind the issue, involving racial profiling, misreported “evidence,” and a failed welfare system.

My questions include:

What would be the first step we need to take in order to view our impoverished children in a new light? Or is that even the root of the problem?

Why do other countries approach poverty in a more “positive” way than America does? Are they more compassionate, or is it due to their more collectivist perspective (where as the U.S. is an individualistic culture)?

Though we are essentially individualists, why do Americans make exceptions for certain social issues? Why do we think it is okay to tell a pregnant woman what is appropriate for her while pregnant, if we are so separated from everyone else when it comes to other topics?

Generating Discuttion: Sexuality, Migration, and the Shifting Line between Legal and Illegal Status (May 16)

Sexuality, Migration, and the Shifting Line between Legal and Illegal Status

by Eithne Luibheid

Main Points

  1. Illegality is a produced “process” and therefore changeable: Illegality is framed and produced through shifting relations of power. The author indicates that illegalization, as well as legalization, is a process; therefore, legal immigrants can become illegal, and illegal immigrants can become legal depending on the “shifting relations of power.” Realizing that U.S. migration policies are strongly connected to its history is also important. When framing “illegal” immigrants, “histories of racism, empire, and capitalism remain central to the processes that render certain groups more likely than others to be deemed illegal” (292).
  2. Individualization of the illegal status: Illegal immigration is tend to be treated as “a self-evident problem that is generated by and reflects undesirable individuals or criminal operations.” Subsequently, undocumented immigration and immigrant illegality are considered separately from “larger structural processes and long histories of inequality,” and are “individualized, instead” (291). This concept makes people associate illegal immigrants with a fixed category or “type” of undesirable person. In addition, having legal status becomes “constructed as a sign of individual good character, rather than as the outcomes of structural advantage” (291).
  3. Excluded people from the family preference system are more likely to face problems to stay legal, which is costly and uncertain: Married male-female couples have the most privileged position as legal immigrants under the family preference system. By contrast, same-sex couples are not allowed to use their relationships as a basis for legal immigration. The Uniting American Family Act (UAFA) was intended to recognize “permanent partnership between same-sex couples as a basis for legal immigration into the United States” (294). (This bill was published in February 2013.) Permanent relationships are not equivalent to marriage, and for same-sex couples, becoming and staying “legal” is costly and uncertain, and requires labor.
  4. Heteronormativity refers to “a range of normalizing discourses and practices that seeks to cultivate and privilege a heterosexual population” while “insisting that heterosexuality is ‘normal’ and timeless rather than a product of economy, society, culture, and political struggle” (296). This homo-hetero binary and other various hierarchies interconnect with “normative sexuality” to produce a range of “subalternized social groups and unvalued family forms.” By amending migration laws and policies repeatedly, it leads not only to increasing preclusion, exclusion, and deportation of family members, but also to tie families up to “mixed status,” that each family member has different legal statuses.
  5. Neoliberal governmentality and affidavits: Under the contemporary neoliberal gvernmentarity, many responsibilities, which had been provided by the system previously, are privatized, and lack of access are redefined as an individual failing rather than a reflection of systemic inequality. Now the role of the state is “empowering” people to become “entrepreneurial subjects of choice engaged in a quest for self-realization” (300). Under the “affidavit of support” system, it was attempted to manage risks associated with legally admitted immigrants and to transform these immigrants into “good” citizens. This system is also controlled by relations of power and various hierarchies, and people are required surveillance not only by the system but also within the family members in order to stay legal. In addition, since permanent relationships between same-sex coupes are not equivalent to marriage, “their relationships are not simply subjected to a higher degree of security, but also carry the presumption of falsity or fraud within a heteronormative logic” (303).


  • How can policies about same-sex marriage affect immigrant policies of same-sex couples?
  • How and why are same-sex couples discriminated from the family preference system for immigrants?
  • Who are the “desirable” citizens for the U.S. originally? Who are excluded from this concept and why?
  • Who will really benefit from those migration policies?

My Thoughts

Immigration policies are controlled by various relations of power in any country. After I read this article, I thought that framing lines between legal and illegal status can produce more social, economic, and political problems even if it was originally attempted to resolve those issues. To some extent, I understood the struggle of the state to keep the nation safe and ideal for them, but judging people by kind of stigmatizing certain people will lead to the social instability in many ways. Before I read this article, I did not know how strongly sexuality affects one’s immigration status. As the author mentions, however, this phenomenon is not the recent, but greatly related to histories of colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism. In order to improve the current migrant situations, not only of same-sex couples but also of other people who are segregated from current system, understanding  “why” they are segregated from systemic and historical perspectives will be helpful. Focusing just on the current situations will lead to the new warps in the society.



“Alien” Sexuality: Race, Maternity, and Citizenship by Cisneros

Natalie Cisneros writes about the controversy surrounding “alien” sexuality. She talks about the views that different people have on citizenship, maternity, and reproduction. When an immigrant woman is in the United States and she is pregnant, she receives help from the government to be able to be taken care of by medical doctors. This is because the child, who will potentially be born, will be a United States citizen. The question raised is whether or not a soon to become mother should receive this assistance if she is not a citizen herself. The reason why they receive this help is because they are the molds who hold these future citizens, and that is more important than if they are citizens themselves.

Cisnero discusses that, “the era of the fetus-as-person has made the maternal body increasingly vulnerable; in discourses that posit fetuses as citizens deserving of the state’s protection, women’s bodies are constituted both as instrumental (for the production of citizens) and responsible (for their ‘health’ or ‘contamination’)” (Cisneros, 6). It should not be that a woman with the worries and stress of being pregnant should be attacked with whether or not they should receive the kind of help that they need as human beings. To say that a woman is responsible for their health or contamination leaves the government out of the picture. Being that the United States goes into different countries to try and help, these women in their own country should be helped as well. Seeing the pregnancy as a plan to stay in the country makes me really sad to hear. Most women that are pregnant decide to have their kids in the United States so the child could have the possibility of having a better life, mothers tend to be selfless, but the government seems to always attack the weakest. Do you see “anchor babies” as a problem? Why or why not?

Cisnero also discusses reproduction and connects it to “anchor babies” as well. She mentions that, “in the context of the emergence of discourse surrounding ‘anchor babies’ and the threat of ‘invasion’ or ‘infestation’ posed by “alien” reproduction, the ‘birthright’ citizenship guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment has again been called into question”  (Cisneros, 13). This is a sentence that tries to justify the scare that some people have. But to say that kids of immigrant parents are an “invasion” or “infestation” is terrible, due to the fact that a judgement is applied on an innocent child that has not even arrived on this planet yet. What do you think that a change of the Fourteenth Amendment would do to this country? 

Similarly to Curry Todd’s comment about pregnant illegal immigrants multiplying like rats, Representative Todd Akins said that rape was legitimate. Legitimate rape would mean that the bodies of those girls who were raped would not be able to conceive a baby because the body could reject a pregnancy from happening. This belief was also not valid to a lot of people and was seen rather insulting just like the comparison to multiplying rats. Do you find this ad to work? Why or why not?

“The Hour of Eugenics” in Veracruz, Mexico Radical Politics, Public Health, and Latin America’s Only Sterilization Law By Alexandra Minna Stern

In “The Hour of Eugenics” in Veracruz, Mexico: Radical Politics, Public Health, and Latin America’s Only Sterilization Law, Alexandra Minna Stern lays out why eugenics was at the epicenter of Veracruz politics. In order to comprehend the situation, Stern breaks down Nancy Leys Stepan’s The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America. Stern credits Nancy Stepan’s scholarship for “latinizing” the study of eugenics. For centiries before eugenics were predominantly linked to Western Europe and United States. Stepan’s work encouraged scholars to view eugenics as a flexible movement who was neither grounded as negative or positive. Instead she offered the idea of preventative eugenics which “aimed to improve by cleansing from milieu those factors (sterilization, euthanasia, control of reproduction, better baby care, and incentives for middle class reproduction) considered to be damaging to people’s hereditary health” (433). This concept of preventative eugenics allowed scholars to understand the heavy influence of neo-Lamarckian philosophy of hereditary (theory claiming that acquired characteristics are transmitted to offspring) and human betterment within polices which could be just as detrimental as eugenic laws in other countries. Stern outlined Stepan’s work so we can better understand Mexican eugenics specifically in Veracruz. Stepan illuminated a more “transnational attuned eugenics literature” that considers the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, religion and public health

For a long time, Veracruz suffered through periods of yellow fever epidemics and outbreaks of other infectious and tropical diseases. This increased anxieties regarding personal and publiuc hygiene. Government officials believed that these “exotic diseases” would be result in the denegration of the race. With external funding from the Rockefeller Foundation they launched a campaign to eradicate the yellow fever epidemic and helped launch maternal and infant hygiene programs. The Government officials publicly condemned prostitution, they believed it enslaved and corrupted women and helped enable the spread of venereal diseases. These assumptions were grounded in their Neo-Lamarckian ideals assuming these diseases were solely heriditary not microbial. The Government officials continued to push for laws and policies that would eliminate the sex work trade by taking these “public women” one by one and placing them in jail. All of this was justififed by eugenist positions about needing to save the race from denegration. One of the latter laws enacted called for the legal sterilzation of the insane, idiots, and degenerates or demented beyond a certain degree. There isn’t many historical records showing that sterilizations were actaully practices but it is not uncommon for physicians to preforms sterilizations and hide them through other procedures. This law was similar to ones enacted in the US but it did reach the states welfare institutions or ask for input from other institutional leaders. Unlike other states like CA, this law did not result in a long period of steilization but instead was utilized to control the lives and bodies of sex workers.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are some other ways that we can compare eugenic legislation in Veracruz to other countries like the US or England?

2. The article mentions how Stepan illuminates the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, religion and public health, what were some examples of those intersections?

3. What does Stepan mean exactly when she discusses the disruption of the binary of eugenics?

Wendy Kline Reading for 5/9

Wendy Kline: “Motherhood, Morality, and the ‘Moron'”

                This article provides a brief history of the eugenics movement, as well as outlining the argument that eugenicists made for “bettering the race.” The opening section of the paper recounts the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. At this exposition, eugenicists held a week-long conference entitled “Race Betterment Week.” This conference was the most widely attended and publicized portion of the exposition and is cited as evidence of the growing fear of “race suicide” among white middle-class people. Kline uses the Exposition’s sculpture of the “mother of tomorrow” as a recurring image throughout this piece.

                Kline briefly discusses the historical context in which eugenics gained ideological authority; she explains that the economic changes during the late 1880s-1910 “increased anxieties that the middle class was losing social authority” (9). Around this time middle-class white men were experiencing a strange physical ailment that became known as “neurasthenia”, which often resulted in “nervous strain” and “mental and physical illness” (9). Kline says that at this point white men became acutely aware of the “powerful masculinity” that African American men appeared to have. This manifested in the creation of the “negro rapist” myth, and the stated desire to protect “the sanctity of southern white womanhood” (9). Immigrant men soon became grouped in the same category as African American men, and viewed as threats to white morality.

                One of the more interesting parts of this reading for me was the way that poor and minority women were categorized as “women adrift” while middle-class white women were going through a “new woman” transformation. Equally interesting is the way that eugenics sought to stamp both of these trends out. The goal of positive eugenics was to get middle-class white women back into the traditional roles of domestic housewives and arbiters of morality and away from the independent “new woman” mode. On the other hand, negative eugenics was used to classify some women as mentally unfit to be mothers, thereby gaining the authority to sterilize and control the reproductive capacities of these women. The women who were unfit were characterized as “women adrift” and condemned as “morons”(which is described as someone “who demonstrated a mental age of eight to twelve years” (22)).


1. There are various ways that “science” was used as “proof” of the superiority of white people during this time (Darwinism, Mendelian genetics, statistics, IQ tests, psychology). What are the legacies of these scientific failings? Is science used today to discriminate against groups of people? Why is science still considered to be the way to “progress” and “advancement” when there are many examples of science contributing to policies and beliefs that discriminate against people? How did science and issues of morality become intertwined by eugenicists?

2. How do the binaries presented in this article (such as “Mother of tomorrow” vs. “woman adrift”, “normal” v. “abnormal”) compare to other binaries that we have discussed in class (savage v. civilized, mind v. body, etc.)?

3. Are there places in the text that evoke imagery of native people? Is it similar to the imagery that Columbus and other European explorers used to describe the native people that they encountered? (Section 24, 17)

4. How did eugenics “offer a solution to both assaults on the authority of white middle-class manhood” (19)?